While education major Nekia Tharps spent much of her senior year student teaching, she had the opportunity while at Southwestern to pursue her passions both in and outside of the classroom.

The highlight of Nekia’s Southwestern Experience was playing sports at the collegiate level. “I am a very competitive person and it was such a great feeling to get a ‘W’ with my basketball girls or win a relay with my track team,” she says.

What brought Nekia to Southwestern? “I knew Southwestern was for me,” she says, “but the deciding factor was the school’s ability to help make college affordable for my family and me.”

Nekia was also involved on campus in the EBONY organization and was one of the founding members of the Coalition for Diversity and Social Justice. In the community, she was a Partners in Education mentor with Georgetown ISD and volunteered with Agapé Christian Ministries. 

“I loved the atmosphere at SU,” she says. “I got to know a lot of people and established quality relationships; something I don’t think would have happened had I gone to a bigger university.”

Through all of her activities, Nekia learned the importance of networking. She says it’s important to “make meaningful connections, because you don’t know where they might take you in the long run!” 

Some of the connections she made were with her faculty advisers. “Whether I had a school or personal problem, they truly cared about my success,” she says. They also encouraged her to go above and beyond the minimum requirements in all that she did. “That advice truly made me stand out while student teaching!” 

She advises incoming Southwestern students, “Get involved! It will make your time at SU more memorable if you are active and make a difference while you are here. Make someone remember your name!”

As a student, Nekia also learned that there are no limits. “I had never been challenged the way my courses challenged me at SU,” she says. “As a result, I have become a much more determined person, and I know that I can achieve anything if I just put in the time and work.”

And work she did. “I graduated feeling very prepared; while student teaching, I used the valuable knowledge I gained in my classes and was offered a job.” 

Nekia is now teaching fourth grade math and science at Pillow Elementary School in the Austin Independent School District.

Books before boards

As a Division III university, Southwestern places the highest priority on the overall quality of the educational experience and on the successful completion of all students’ academic programs.